Posts Tagged ‘Labor contracts’

Contract Voting to Last Through Mid-November

September 24, 2022

The ratification process of the tentative railroad labor contract is expected to drag on into mid-November.

Trains magazine reported Friday on its website that the two largest railroad labor unions, the SMART Transportation Division, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, have provided their members a timeline for how the ratification process will play out.

The timeline includes a question-and-answer period in which members are being invited to pose questions about the contract agreement.

As part of that Q&A process, the unions said they might need to return to the negotiating table with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, to clarify the meaning of certain contract provisions and how they will be implemented in practice.

BLET and SMART-TD represent about half of the 125,000 union railroad workers affected by the recent contract talks. Those workers are represented by 12 unions.

Under the timelines released by BLET and SMART-TD, voting would begin in mid-October with results announced in mid-November.

That would effectively put off a potential work stoppage until after the mid-term elections.

The Trains report also indicated that negotiations continue between the NCCC and the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 19, whose members voted down a tentative contract earlier this month.

A memo sent to members from the union, which represents mechanics, said the talks are making progress.

Members of two railroad labor unions have voted to ratify tentative agreements while the ratification process is ongoing with other unions.

One reason for the Q&A sessions is because some rail workers say they want more concrete details about the changes in sick leave and assigned days off that were agreed to in the tentative pact announced early on the morning of Sept. 15, less than 24 hours before a potential national rail work stoppage.

The Hill, a website devoted to covering the federal government and politics, said some rail workers are wondering how strong the contract language is.

Earlier this week leaders of BLET and SMART-TD told their members that some of the language was still being written and reviewed by attorneys representing both sides of the talks.

Ron Kaminkow, an organizer at Railroad Workers United, told The Hill there’s “a lot of anger, confusion and hostility” toward the new agreement because workers believe what they have been told thus far has been intentionally vague.

In an interview with The Hill, Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, predicted workers eventually will ratify the agreements but there will be a “sizeable number of ‘no’ votes.”

Bruno said it may be that union negotiating committees “misread what the rank and file would support.”

He said many of the “no” votes will be motivated by rail workers who feel they’ve been abused.

“Usually, there’s a way to kind of figure out money,” Bruno said. “It’s very often issues that go to respect and go to treatment, working autonomy, worker ability to have some control over their life. I think it reflects just how much power employers can have, even under a collective bargaining agreement.”

The Hill report also indicated that many rail workers dread the prospect of Congress imposing new contract terms on rail workers.

That might occur because elected officials fear a railroad work stoppage would disrupt the economy by keeping shipments of food, fuel and other key commodities from moving.

Quoting an unnamed Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer, The Hill report said workers believe that that gives them leverage in getting what they want from railroad management, particularly in terms of work rules.

Rail Labor Strife Far From Settled

September 22, 2022

A week ago railroad labor peace seemed to be at hand. After an all-night bargaining session in which Labor Secretary Marty Walsh leaned on the parties to make concessions, a tentative agreement was announced around dawn, less than 24 hours before unions under federal railroad labor law were free to strike and their employers were free to lock them out.

Leaders of unions representing locomotive engineers and conductors touted the gains they achieved in modifying work rule pertaining to attendance policies, a 24 percent compounded wage increase over the life of the five-year contract, and heading off railroad management’s determination – for now at least – to restructure the jobs of conductors.

But those tentative agreements came with an important caveat. They are subject to ratification by union members.

Even before the last three unions agreed to a tentative contract, members of one union had rejected the tentative pact their leaders had negotiated earlier and members of two other unions had approved their tentative agreements.

The ratification process won’t be completed among remaining unions for another couple of weeks.

But there is a realistic prospect that the nation could be back to where it was last week with a strike and/or lockout looming again.

Some union workers have taken to social media to blast the agreements, saying they don’t go far enough.

It remains unclear if that is the view of a majority of union rail workers or merely griping by a loud minority.

In a commentary posted Wednesday on the website of Railway Age, Frank Wilner suggested that even if the rank and file union members vote to reject the agreements reached between their unions and the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, there is precedent for union leadership “overriding” the contract rejections.

Wilner, who has written extensively about railroad labor issues for Railway Age and published a book about the federal Railway Labor Act, said there are two scenarios in which that could happen.

Union leaders could cite clauses in the union’s constitution for imposing the contract despite the vote of the rank and file to reject it, or union leadership could reach an agreement with railroad management to submit the contract issue to binding arbitration.

Wilner cited two instances in which union leaders did those things. One instance involved the then-named United Transportation Union in 1996 and the Teamsters in 2018.

You can read Wilner’s column at https://www.railwayage.com/freight/class-i/might-union-chiefs-override-member-vote/

Pay particular attention to the political calculus that might drive union leaders to ignore the will of their members if they vote to reject the tentative agreements.

Even if railroad workers vote to ratify the tentative agreements, that doesn’t mean the restlessness in the ranks that has boiled over in recent months will go away despite the gains that union leaders said they made regarding work rules.

Trains magazine write Bill Stephens offered a thoughtful analysis of the turbulent times that might lie ahead in the wake of the current round of tentative contract agreements.

One scenario he offered is that some workers might stay in their jobs long enough to collect their back pay and then leave.

If large numbers of workers do that, it would set back the efforts of Class 1 railroads to recruit enough workers to alleviate the crew shortages they’ve been experiencing of late and which they claim is the root cause of their service issues.

You can read Stephen’s column at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/rail-strike-averted-for-now-but-the-industrys-not-out-of-the-woods-yet-analysis/

The analysis ends with the observation that the railroad industry needs stability and less uncertainty. “The best way to go about it would be for labor and management to iron out their differences,” Stephens wrote.

Few would disagree with that. Retiring CSX CEO James Foote suggested as much in remarks made a few months ago.

Yet what if some differences between labor and management are irreconcilable?

Labor-management conflict is inevitable in every workplace because the self-interests of the two don’t always align.

Some of what railroad workers seem to want railroad management is never going to agree to give them.

Managers believe it is their place to set workplace rules. They call it management prerogative. Management might be willing to negotiate on some of those rules, but not all of them.

It is noteworthy that the tentative agreements may have eased some of the rules regarding attendance policies, but the pacts left untouched management’s right to set those policies, including policies that penalize workers for unauthorized absences.

In the meantime, everyone is waiting to see how the union members vote on ratification.

I would expect union leaders to lean hard on them to vote “yes.”

And if they don’t? A strike or lockout is not out of the question. How will it end? Probably not the way that many workers think that it will or hope that it will.

Rail Worker Group Plans Informational Picketing

September 21, 2022

A railroad workers group plans to conduct informational picketing today to seek to draw public attention to railroad crew shortages and the lack of a “decent quality of life” that railroaders have.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the group, Rail Labor for Coordinated Bargaining in 2025, plans what it termed a “practice picket” at railroad terminals with rail workers participating in the event before and after their work shifts.

The picketing comes less than a week after three railroad labor unions reached a tentative agreement with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management.

That contract is in the process of going through the union member ratification process.

Since 2020, members of 12 railroad labor unions have been working under the terms of an agreement that expired that year, but under federal law railroad labor contracts remain in force until they are amended by mutual agreement of the carriers and their unions.

In a related development, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 19 plans to resume negotiations with the NCCC this week.

Members of that union last week had voted to reject a tentative agreement reached earlier. The union said the agreement failed on a vote of 63 percent opposed and 37 percent in favor of ratification.

IAM District 19 is in a “cooling off” period through Sept. 29 when it might strike.

Two unions have voted to ratify tentative agreements with the NCCC while nine other unions have yet to complete voting on the agreements reached by their union leadership. The Trains article can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/rail-workers-group-calls-for-wednesday-picketing/

Contract Ratification Process to Begin

September 20, 2022

One of the railroad labor unions that reached a tentative contract agreement with railroad management last week has told its members it will be awhile until the contract is presented to them for ratification.

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division told its members last week that contract language is still being worked out by lawyers for both sides.

Trains magazine reported on its website that it would be this week at the earliest before the final contract is available to be distributed to members.

Two other labor unions, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen are expected to begin the ratification process today and count ballots on Oct. 10.

Unions Tout Gains, Carriers Resume Accept New Shipments With Work Stoppage Averted

September 15, 2022

The tentative labor contract reached early Thursday morning that averted a railroad work stoppage was reached after both sides made concessions during intense bargaining that occurred after midnight as U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh intervened.

The concessions largely dealt with work rules and the 24 percent compounded wage increase over the five years of the contract that the parties agreed upon largely mirrors the recommendation of a presidential emergency board.

A statement issued by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the SMART Transportation Division, indicated that workers will receive “the largest wage increases in more than 45 years while holding the line on insurance costs and co-pays and addressing scheduling issues.”

The union statement said the latter includes providing for time off. “For the first time, our unions were able to obtain negotiated contract language exempting time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies,” the statement said.

Another hot button issue, crew size, was somewhat addressed in the tentative agreement, although the unions sought to frame that as a matter of taking “the crew consist issue off the table.”

Railroads want to restructure the jobs of conductors by making most of those positions ground-based jobs in which individual conductors would be responsible for multiple trains over a defined geographic area.

Unions have adamantly insisted that every road train have a conductor and engineer onboard.

The tentative agreement will now be submitted to BLET and SMART-TD members for ratification.

The Railway Age report noted that the contract “sweeteners” reached by BLET and SMART-TD also will be applied to other tentative agreements.

This would apply to contracts already ratified by two unions, the Transportation Communications Union/IAM, and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, and rejected by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 19.

Presumably the latter will submit the amended agreement to another ratification vote by its members.

Six unions that had reached tentative agreements with the NCCC were still in the ratification process and the “sweeteners” will apply to there contracts.

Yet another union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, was still at the bargaining table along the BLET and SMART-TD

One report indicated that the signal workers union’s negotiating team had agreed to a tentative pact with NCCC, but the union’s leadership refused to endorse it or submit it to members for ratification.

Ratification by any of the unions of the latest tentative agreement is not a sure thing, thus the threat of a strike and/or lockout could re-emerge several weeks from now.

In a statement, the Association of American Railroads said upon ratification of the contract union members will be paid, on average, $11,000 per worker in back pay because the contract terms are backdated to 2020.

The tentative contract, if ratified, will extend through 2024. Under federal labor law, railroad contracts never expire, but can be amended.

The BLET and SMART-TD statement said the tentative agreements provides for voluntary assigned days off for road train crews and an additional paid day off.

“Most importantly, for the first time ever, the agreement provides our members with the ability to take time away from work to attend routine and preventative medical [appointments], as well as exemptions from attendance policies for hospitalizations and surgical procedures,” the statement said.

The unions claimed they were able to block the desire of railroad management “to fast-track arbitration on crew consist agreements.”

This will mean two-person crews will continue for the indefinite future, the unions said.

However, the unions conceded on the demands that railroad drop attendance polices that unions had described as “draconian.”

Nor were the unions able to achieve their goal of creating predictable work schedules.

These two issues will instead be subject to “local handling.”

Aside from the involvement of Labor Secretary Walsh, President Joseph Biden also made calls to both side to apply pressure to reach an agreement.

Also participating during the overnight bargaining were Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, and National Mediation Board member Linda Puchala.

The last railroad work stoppage occurred in the early 1990s.

In the wake of the announcement of a tentative agreement, railroads began cancelling freight embargoes and again accepting intermodal, security-sensitive, and hazardous cargo shipments.

Norfolk Southern sent a notice to shippers that it has reopened all gates effective immediately.

To read more about the tentative agreement visit https://www.railwayage.com/freight/class-i/no-work-stoppage-for-now/

and https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/freight-railroad-strike-averted-thanks-to-tentative-contract-agreements/

Tentative Deal Will Head Off Rail Strike

September 15, 2022

A national railroad strike has been averted for now after railroad labor unions and management reached a nearly 11th hour tentative agreement on a new contract.

The tentative agreement was announced by President Joseph Biden early Thursday morning.

Details about the agreement are not yet available but a statement issued by the Association of American Railroads indicated that the pact adopted the recommendation of a presidential emergency board of a 24 percent compounded wage increase over the five-year length of the contract.

This includes an average of $11,000 in back pay per worker upon ratification of the agreement, AAR said.

The tentative agreement runs from 2020 through 2024.

The AAR statement said nothing about work rules, particularly time off. A report on the website Politico quoted House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) as saying unions were seeking an additional five unpaid sick days.

The Biden administration had been working throughout the week to head off a potential strike and/or lockout that could have occurred as early as Friday morning.

In announcing the agreement, Biden said it, “will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruption of our economy.”

The tentative contract would still need to be ratified by the unions involved and it is not clear if the rank and file will do so.

On Wednesday members of the Transportation Communications Union/IAM, and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen said their members had approved tentative agreements reached earlier with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management.

However, on that same day the The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 19 said its members rejected a tentative agreement with NCCC.

Through Wednesday, nine labor unions had reached tentative agreements with NCCC and statements issued by both sides indicated that those agreements generally adopted the recommendations of the presidential emergency board that Biden had appointed earlier this summer to investigate the contract dispute.

Contract negotiations have been dragging on for more than two years with the two sides stalemated over wages, benefits and work rules.

In recent days, the president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Dennis Pierce, had said that work rules and not wages were the primary sticking point preventing an agreement.

The unions have for months been bitterly complaining about what they termed “draconian” attendance policies imposed by Class 1 carriers, particularly BNSF and Union Pacific.

In announcing the tentative agreement, Biden said, “these rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned.”

He added that the agreement “is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”

Rhetoric Continues to Rise in Contract Dispute

September 14, 2022

A ninth railroad labor union has reached a tentative agreement with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management in contract talks.

In the meantime, various shipper trade associations continued to apply pressure on Congress  to settle the dispute to avoid a strike or lockout that could occur as early as Friday.

President Joseph Biden also called top railroad management executives and union leaders to lobby them to settle the contract dispute, which a union president said on Monday is stalled over railroad attendance policies.

The latest union to reach a tentative agreement is the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers.

A news release from the union said the tentative pact implements the recommendations of a presidential emergency board of a 24 percent compounded wage increase over the five-year length of the contract, which covers the period of 2020 through 2024.

Workers would receive retroactive pay to cover 2020 and 2021 and parts of 2022. They also would receive five annual $1,000 lump sum payments.

That leaves three unions, which represent locomotive engineers, conductors and signal workers still at the bargaining table. The 12 railroad labor unions represent 125,000 workers.

The latest agreement came as various parties in the dispute continue to heat up the war of words.

Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, said on Monday that worker attendance policies are the primary unresolved issue in the contract talks.

Pierce said during an appearance on cable news network CNBC that BNSF and Union Pacific in particular are being adamant about refusing to modify their attendance policies.

“We’re just looking for time away from work to address our medical issues,” Pierce said.  “Union Pacific and BNSF attendance policies are assessing [penalty] points to our members when they just want to take time off for their regular medical appointments.”

In response, BNSF told CNBC that Pierce’s claims were false while UP said it was continuing to push for a “prompt resolution” to avoid a shutdown of the national freight rail system. 

In a related development, leaders of the SMART Transportation Division union told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that lawmakers should let rail labor contract negotiations play out.

In a letter to Congress SMART-TD legislative director Greg Hynes said union members would reject a tentative contract based on the recommendations of the PEB by a 3-to-1 margin.

Hynes also said in his letter that the top issue in the contract talks is not wages but working conditions.

He said the carriers “are still refusing to provide our members with minimal provisions to improve their overall quality of life, and to recognize their contributions to the industry and to the American economy.”

The PEB appointed by President Biden earlier this year was largely silent on work rules, saying  only that they should be negotiated at the local level between the railroads and the unions.

Unions have described the attendance policies that railroads have imposed as “draconian.”

“Through egregious and excessive absenteeism policies, the railroads have taken away our members’ ability to be a worthy parent and dependable spouse; and they have eliminated any realistic means for an employee to receive medical services or care for a sick child without being assessed discipline or termination,” Hynes wrote.

The PEB did recommend that workers receive one additional paid day off.

The Association of American Railroads said in a statement that workers have numerous ways to take time off, including paid vacation, sick leave and supplemental sick leave policies through the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act.

The AAR statement said crews also can mark off for any reason “if they maintain a reasonable level of overall availability under carrier attendance policies.”

BNSF said its workers generally get three to five weeks of paid vacation and 10 to 14 paid holidays or personal leave days, and received a 25 percent increase in personal leave days.

UP officials said it “understands our employees want a different way and process … to request and receive time off for things like medical appointments. We are in active discussions with the unions to try to address these concerns.”

In the meantime, several trade organizations have called on Congress to intervene to head off a strike and/or lockout.

They include the National Industrial Transportation League, one of the largest and oldest group of rail shippers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“NITL members and shippers of all sizes in all regions continue experiencing dismal freight rail service due primarily to the implementation of precision scheduled railroading. Any disruption in freight rail service will negatively impact our nation’s international competitiveness while making inflation even worse which is affecting all Americans,” Nancy O’Liddy, executive director of the NIT League, wrote in a Sept. 12 letter to congressional leaders.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said a strike would be an “economic disaster.”

On Monday, President Biden and members of his cabinet held emergency meetings in Washington and have been talking with the parties in the labor dispute.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it “is initiating oversight and enforcement efforts to ensure safety during any potential interruption of rail operations.”

Railroads Continue to Prepare for Work Stoppage, Senators Introduce Bill to Impose Contract Terms

September 13, 2022

As railroads begin to embargo traffic ahead of a possible national railroad strike and/or lockout that could begin as early as Friday, legislation has been introduced in the Senate to settle the dispute.

Amtrak said it would suspend service on four long-distance routes in advance of a possible railroad work stoppage.

The Senate resolution would force railroad labor unions and railroads to accept the recommendations made last month by a presidential emergency board.

It was introduced by Sens. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Negotiations for a new contract have been ongoing for more than two years with unions representing locomotive engineers and train conductors at loggerheads with management over wages, benefits and work rules.

To date, eight of the 12 railroad labor unions have reached tentative contract agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management in the negotiations.

Those agreements have been described in statements issued by the two sides as generally following the recommendations of the PEB.

The PEB issued its recommendations on Aug. 16 and under federal law strikes and/or lockouts are prohibited for 30 days following that. The 30-day cooling off period will expire at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

Amtrak said it will suspend service today on the routes of the Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, California Zephyr and portions of the route of the Texas Eagle.

The latter involves the Los Angeles to San Antonio segment of the Texas Eagle route, which overlaps with the route of the Sunset Limited.

The passenger carrier said suspensions could expand to all routes outside the Northeast Corridor by the end of the week.

The Amtrak statement said suspensions being imposed today will ensure that the affected trains can reach their endpoint terminals before a strike and/or lockout begins.

Although neither Amtrak or its workers are parties to the railroad labor negotiations, the passenger carrier uses track owned by freight railroads where a strike and/or lockout may occur.

In the event of a strike and/or lockout, Amtrak said it would continue operating trains that wholly use track that it owns or is owned by public agencies.

This includes the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington; the line between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts; the Empire Corridor between New York and Albany-Rensselaer, New York; and the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

An Amtrak statement said passengers affected by service suspensions due to the labor dispute will be contacted and offered the opportunity to change their travel dates or offered a full refund of their fare without any cancellation fees.

In a related developments, Class 1 railroads have begun embargoing certain types of shipments starting today.

Norfolk Southern told its shippers that it will stop accepting intermodal and automotive traffic.

The NS notice said it will close the gates for loaded or empty intermodal units at its terminals as of noon Tuesday and would also stop accepting traffic at on-dock port facilities and privately owned intermodal terminals.

The notice said the gates would remain open for intermodal pickup until further notice. Customers using railroad-operated EMP and TMX containers will be unable to make reservations after 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. They will be able to return empty containers to NS terminals as normal until further notice.

Automotive traffic gates will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, with an embargo on auto traffic beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

The railroad also said it is planning “for the orderly lay down of trains in the bulk network” and will contact customers moving bulk commodities in unit trains with specific details.

CSX has also began on Monday an embargo of “high hazardous, toxic by inhalation and poisonous by inhalation” cargo.

3 More Unions Reach Tentative Contract Pacts

September 12, 2022

Three more railroad labor unions have reached tentative agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management.

The agreements were announced over the weekend and involve the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Mechanical Department.

A statement released by the two sides indicated that the tentative agreements generally implement recommendations made by a presidential emergency board of a 24 percent wage increase over the five-year period covered by the agreement.

This would include a 14.1 percent wage increase effective immediately and five annual $1,000 lump sum payments.

If ratified by members of those unions, workers would receive back pay in line with the terms of the contract retroactive from 2020.

The latest agreements mean eight of the 12 railroad labor unions negotiating with the NCCC have reached tentative agreements.

BMWED is the third largest of the 12 unions, which collectively represent 125,000 railroad workers.

Other unions that have reached tentative contract agreements include the the American Train Dispatchers Association; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and the Transportation Communications Union, including its allied Brotherhood of Railway Carmen.

Unions that have yet to reach agreements remain in a “cooling off” period through Friday. At that time they will be free to strike.

Still without agreements are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which represents 24,700 workers, and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, which represents 37,400 workers.

Jawboning Intensifies Ahead of Rail Stoppage

September 9, 2022

With a potential national railroad strike and/or lockout a week away, a war of words has ensured in various quarters ahead of the Sept. 16 expiration of a 30-day cooling off period.

The Association of American Railroads said this week that a railroad stoppage could cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion a day.

In a related development, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has joined negotiations being supervised by the National Mediation Board with eight railroad unions that have not yet reached tentative agreements.

One report indicated that Walsh told both sides they should avoid messing with the nation’s fragile economy weeks ahead of elections because neither Congress nor the Biden Administration will like it.

He reportedly warned the two sides that they should not expect Congress to act to head off a railroad stoppage by approving a settlement or extending negotiations.

Five of the 12 railroad labor unions have reached tentative agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management in labor contract negotiations.

The AAR report said a work stoppage would halt more than 7,000 trains a day and “trigger retail product shortages, widespread manufacturing shutdowns, job losses and disruptions to hundreds of thousands of passenger rail customers.”

The $2 billion impact of a work stoppage on the economy was an update of a 1992 Federal Railroad Administration econometric study to quantify the potential effects of a national rail shutdown on employment and economic output.

Railroad executives fear that a work stoppage could lead some shippers to use other modes of transportation to move freight and some of that lost business might not return to the rails.

The AAR report said that Congress might have to intervene to avert a work stoppage if negotiations fail to resolve the matter.

Some industry observers have suggested that as the Sept. 16 deadline approaches, the parties in the negotiations might voluntarily extend the deadline.

The cooling off period by federal law began upon the Aug. 16 release of the recommendations of a presidential emergency board, which was appointed by President Joseph Biden earlier this summer.

The recommendations of the PEB are not binding on the parties to the negotiations.

An analysis published on the website of Railway Age noted that one factor favoring giving negotiations more time is “outside political duress and internal financial pressure on all stakeholders, which serves to refocus reasonable minds and chill wonderfully even the most pugnacious of negotiators.”

The Railway Age report, though, said that the NCCC indicated on Thursday that railroad management is reluctant to extend the negotiating period in light of how five unions agreeing to tentative contract has set a pattern.

Any tentative contract agreements must be ratified by union members.

Union leadership has been hinting that a strike could strain the finances of the unions if they have to pay their members strike benefits that could exceed $12 million a day.

Some union members have been actively calling for a strike and may be underestimating how much it could cost them.

Strike benefits provide at best a fraction of what workers earn through regular wages and benefits.

Unions have told their members recently that during a strike they could expect no more than $100 a day in strike benefits and $1,200 maximum per month.

Strike benefits would not be paid for the first three days of a strike.

A memo sent to members of the SMART Transportation Division said the cost of paying its 37,000 members strike benefits would be more than $3.7 million per day.

SMART-TD leadership warned that strike benefits could be suspended if needed to protect the financial interests of the union.

Union workers who are away from home when a strike begins would face having to make their own arrangements to return home.

If carriers cut off health care benefits during a strike, workers would be faced with doing without health care insurance for the duration of a work stoppage or having to pay thousands of dollars a month to buy insurance at market rates.

In the meantime the website Politico.com said some of the eight unions still at the bargaining table have reached tentative agreements with the NCCC, but those have yet to be announced.

The Politico report said the unions representing locomotive engineers and conductors and the NCCC continue to be at stalemate over certain issues, including following the terms of agreements reached with the NCCC by other unions.

Leaders of T&E unions said their members have “borne the brunt of inept crew management, life-changing attendance policies, and working conditions over the past years that are making it all but impossible for rail carriers to hire and retain operating employees.”

The leaders of the SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen called on Congress to stay out of the dispute.

“We are confident that the rail carriers will move from their current positions and settle with their employees in a fashion that could be ratified,” if Congress remains on the sidelines, the union leadership said.